There has been plenty of chatter surrounding the Mariners as we approach the All-Star Break and Trade Deadline in regards to potential trade acquisitions; some substantiated, some probably not.
That is to be expected, especially the latter, but that doesn’t mean trade rumors aren’t fun, and occasionally, they do come to fruition.
The latest buzz, which will likely be more exciting than other names, comes from Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, who cites sources as saying that the recent roster shuffling the Mariners have gone through could be a sign of them prepping for a major acquisition.
Price has been linked to the Mariners since last year, as he will be a free agent after 2015, and it seemed unlikely that he would sign an extension in Tampa Bay.
He has proven himself to be one of the top pitchers in the league year in and year out, with a 3.09 ERA (80 ERA-) and 3.20 FIP (83 FIP-) from 2010 to right now.
He has three straight seasons of 4.0 fWAR or more under his belt, and is on pace for another 4+ win season this year.
His calling card this year though, in lieu of his slightly inflated 3.48 ERA, has been his incredible K/BB ratio of 7.95, 2nd only to Phil Hughes, who dominated the Mariners yesterday.
But Price’s sudden susceptibility to the long ball (1.22 HR/9) is a big reason why his ERA is about 30 points higher than his FIP.
However his xFIP, which normalizes HR/FB rate due to the fact that in most cases, pitchers regress back towards that league average rate (more info here) tells us he hasn’t quite earned that poor HR rate, as he is currently sitting at 2.68.
FIP is made up of the three true outcomes — strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Price has been amazing at maximizing Ks and limiting walks, so it makes sense that when you bring his home run rates back down to where they probably should be, he looks like one of the more dominant pitchers in the league.
That doesn’t mean you can throw out those home runs, as they did actually happen, and there is a chance he is doing something to actually “earn” those dingers.
But it stands to reason that he shouldn’t give up quite that many, given his career HR/9 of 0.86, and HR/FB of 9.6% (league average is usually around 9.5%).
All that being said, Price is clearly one of the best hurlers in the league, and will likely cost a fortune, in the form of top prospect talent.
Some writers frown upon making up trade ideas, and I do at times too. It is so often completely off-base, as we either don’t have any idea what teams are asking for, and/or we under or overrate players involved because of our previous biases.
That being said, I think Taijuan Walker is assuredly a must in any deal for Price, and you build from there. Nick Franklin is blocked and continues to mash in Triple-A, so you can probably include him.
Roenis Elias becomes a 6th option if you have Price and if Paxton is healthy, and he could develop into a quality 4th starter elsewhere.
More players may be involved on either side, but a trade built around guys like that seems to make sense.
Now, if Ben Zobrist were to be involved, things become both more exciting, and more expensive. Zobrist isn’t particularly amazing at any one thing (you could make a case for his career .354 OBP), but he does pretty much everything an above-average rate.
He has regressed some over his last two campaigns (wRC+ of 115 and 117 compared to 130+), but he remains extremely valuable.
That career .263/.354/.433 line looks even better when you consider he can play anywhere on the diamond, and do it well.
About a quarter of his career value has come from his defense (by rWAR and dWAR), as he has moved from shortstop, to first base, to right field, to 2nd base depending on what the Rays need at the time.
That kind of flexibility is rare period, but it becomes even more so when the guy can actually hit.
This isn’t Willie Bloomquist, who is roughly average across the diamond, but can’t produce at the dish. This is a guy who is consistently 15-20% better than league average at the plate, but can play anywhere you need him to, without costing you anything defensively.
And that is why he was able to compile 17.5 fWAR from 2011 to 2013, and is on pace to add another 4.5 wins or so this season.
Zobrist would be the perfect 2 hitter in the traditional lineup, allowing James Jones to move back up to leadoff, (by the way, why has he been #2 in favor of Endy Chavez and recently Michael Saunders who was previously hitting 2nd behind Jones?) and Saunders to hit in the 5-7 range.
Side note: being statistically inclined, I would prefer Saunders at the top, with Jones hitting somewhere at the bottom, but lineup construction isn’t that important, and Lloyd doesn’t think about that.
Think about a lineup of:
And a rotation of:
That team can match up with just about anyone, and that is without mentioning the shutdown bullpen behind them.
Again, I, and no one else, has any idea what the actual cost would be, and this is all speculation. I don’t love the idea of giving all of that up for a year and a half of both guys, but if the team is in win now mode, they might disagree.
And when put on the spot, it is hard to say no to David Price and Ben Zobrist.
But it is speculation with some logic behind it, that has been reported by various outlets for a fairly long time.
Arguments can be made in favor and against, but it really comes down to what this front offices plans are for now and the future.